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Adam Hochschild

Adam Hochschild
Born 1942 (age 73–74)
New York City, United States
Occupation Writer, journalist
Spouse(s) Arlie Russell Hochschild

Adam Hochschild (/ˈhkʃɪld/; born 1942) is an American author, journalist, and lecturer. His well-known works include King Leopold's Ghost, To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, Bury the Chains, The Mirror at Midnight, and The Unquiet Ghost.


Hochschild was born in New York City. He graduated from Harvard in 1963 with a BA in History and Literature. As a college student, he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and subsequently worked briefly as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964. Both were politically pivotal experiences about which he would eventually write in his book Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels. He later was part of the movement against the Vietnam War, and, after several years as a daily newspaper reporter, worked as a writer and editor for the left-wing Ramparts magazine. In the mid-1970s, he was one of the co-founders of Mother Jones.[1] Much of his writing has been about issues of human rights and social justice.

A Lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, he is married to sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild.



Hochschild's first book was a memoir, Half the Way Home: a Memoir of Father and Son (1986), in which he described the difficult relationship he had with his father. In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called the book "an extraordinarily moving portrait of the complexities and confusions of familial love." [2]

In The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey (1990; new edition, 2007) he examines the tensions of modern South Africa through the prism of the nineteenth-century Battle of Blood River, which determined whether the Boers or the Zulus would control that part of the world, as well as looking at the contentious commemoration of the event by rival groups 150 years later, at the height of the apartheid era.

In The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin[3] (1994; new edition, 2003), Hochschild chronicles the six months he spent in Russia, traveling to Siberia and the Arctic, interviewing gulag survivors, retired concentration camp guards, former members of the secret police and countless others about Joseph Stalin's reign of terror in the country, during which more than ten million people died.

Hochschild's Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels (1997) collects his personal essays and shorter pieces of reportage.

His King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998; new edition, 2006) is a history of the conquest of the Congo by King Léopold II of Belgium, and of the atrocities that were committed under Leopold's private rule of the colony, events that sparked the twentieth century's first great international human rights campaign.

Hochschild's Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (2005) is about the antislavery movement in the British Empire. The story of how abolitionists organized to change the mind of the British public about slavery has attracted attention from contemporary climate change activists, who see an analogy to their own work.[4]

In 2011, he published To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918, which looks at the era of the First World War in terms of the struggle between those who felt the war was a noble crusade and those who felt it was not worth the sacrifice of millions of lives. Hochschild's books have been translated into fourteen languages.


Hochschild has also written for the New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic, Granta, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, and The Nation and other publications. He was also a commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Statement about writing

In 2012, Hochschild was given an award for his work by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He and the other writers receiving awards at the Academy's annual ceremony were asked to write short statements about their work, to be part of an exhibit of their books and manuscripts. His statement is as follows:

In my next life I intend to return as a novelist, but in this one, lacking the ability to invent characters, I go looking for them in the real world. But that relieves me of having to pass the hurdle that novelists generally face: is their work believable? As the critic Christopher Benfey once wrote, ‘One advantage of writing nonfiction is that it doesn’t have to be plausible; it just has to be true.’ And so I’ve found my raw material in life itself, sometimes in the present, more often in the past.

I'm particularly attracted to writing about times and places when people felt a moral imperative to confront evil: whether in bearing witness to the prison camps of Stalin’s Soviet Union, battling apartheid in South Africa, exposing the forced labor system that King Leopold II of Belgium imposed on the Congo, working to end slavery in the British Empire, or resisting the madness of the First World War. I’m working now on a book about American volunteers and journalists in the Spanish Civil War. Getting to know some of the men and women who took part in these struggles has taken me to the ruins of gulag camps in the Russian Arctic, to townships, villages and miners’ camps in various parts of Africa, and to the libraries and archives where diaries and letters of people from earlier times can be found. Those journeys in time can be just as moving as the ones in geography: what a thrill it was to page through the small, leather-bound pocket notebook that an abolitionist organizer took with him on a stagecoach trip to Scotland in 1792, filled with accounts of those he met and with admonitions to himself. People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever used a research assistant. Are they kidding? Why would I want to give away to someone else the pleasure of doing such exploring?

If there is a special new technique of writing history, I certainly have not discovered it. All the lessons I try to follow are very ancient ones. Read widely; 'Read,' G. M. Young, the historian of Victorian England, once said, 'until you can hear people talking.' Try like hell to be accurate. Remember how much you don’t know. Write in a way that will make your reader keep on reading.

Is there any profession I would rather have? There isn’t. As a writer you get to insert yourself into other people’s lives. You get to travel in time. And, unlike those in all sorts of other lines of work, from ballerinas to quarterbacks, you never have to retire.




  1. ^ "Adam Hochschild Bio at Mother Jones". Mother Jones. 
  2. ^ Coming to Terms, June 21, 1986.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Azar, Christian (2007). "Bury the chains and the carbon dioxide". Climatic Change 85 (3–4): 473–5. doi:10.1007/s10584-007-9303-y. 
  5. ^ "J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project winners". Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ Julie Bosman (September 30, 2012). "Winners Named for Dayton Literary Peace Prize". New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 3012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

External links

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Author biography:

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